I have read quite a bit on pornography and “every man’s battle” with it over my time working with the church. There is everything from Every Man’s Battle to youth curriculum for dealing with pornography, masturbation, adolescence and sex. These are all good resources depending on where you are coming from and who you are. I always thought though that the church generally handled this issue like all others. Not nearly honestly enough. Then XXX Church came out and really brought a breath of fresh air to the subject and reality that our culture was facing. They made it easy to talk about, admit our human weaknesses and were especially not judgmental. They weren’t just talking about it either, they were amidst the sin they were attempting to rid. Most see this as not very productive, but I thought it was beautiful.
I just finished reading Is Porn Bad for You? by Wendy Maltz. It was an excellent article about her journey through porn in seeing it as healthy to unhealthy. I think it’s articles like this that anyone teaching or journeying with people on this subject should start with. It is an honest article about why we look at porn, the role it may have in our relationships and how she eventually helps lead people away from it. I love writing like this because it doesn’t instantly demonize the action or the people doing the action. This is the approach that I think we as a church needs to take when dealing with everything that we deem as sin.
She wrote the article starting with her personal experience, explaining her academic experiences and findings, then her clinical ones and then slowly brought you with her as she explained why she came to the conclusion she did. The issue in the end is about people, not about their problems. How do we help people help themselves? How do we better interact with people who have problems to help them instead of condemn them? She ends the article like this.
As therapists, perhaps our most important role is in providing clients a safe place to discuss and examine their concerns. It’s best to analyze porn-related situations on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration a client’s personal values, sexual experience, sexual orientation, and relationship status. I often rely on the following questions to help clients increase awareness and begin to evaluate their involvement with porn. Is porn increasing or decreasing your self-esteem and integrity? Is it upsetting or alienating your intimate partner (or harming your future chances of being in a healthy relationship)? Have you become preoccupied, out-of-control, dependent on, or compulsively engaged with porn? How is porn shaping your sexual thoughts, desires, and behaviors? What negative consequences could occur if you continue to use porn? Only when clients determine they want help quitting porn do we proceed in that direction, utilizing the dynamic strategies that exist for achieving sexual recovery and healing. As mental health professionals I believe we’re most helpful when we resist our tendencies to automatically condemn or advocate porn. Our effectiveness depends on our ability to join with clients in regularly evaluating porn’s impact on their lives. While I remain aware that porn use isn’t a problem for everyone, I keep in mind that, given its unprecedented power and accessibility, it can become a problem for anyone.